18 and Flailing

One week ago I turned 18. Since then I’ve been dealing with bouts of depression by drugging myself on Queer as Folk. In a perfect world I would write “hey, guess what guys, I’m not a teenager anymore, so no more angst on this blog!” But this is not a perfect world, and I am not a perfect person. Adult angst exists. I just need to conquer it.

Writing "Britin" over and over to numb the pain. Britin = best couple on QAF.

Writing “Britin” over and over to numb the pain. Britin = Brian and Justin. The best couple on QAF.

The other day I wrote a chapter of a project I’m working on. It absolutely sucked.

Wordiness. Horrible character introductions. Weak voice. Tangents of unnecessary emotional intensity. I wish I was being my own worst critic here, but no: it made me want to tear my eyes out.

Now that I’m 18, I feel this enormous pressure on my shoulders. I’m past my prime as the precocious teenager; it’s time for me to step up and make good of all the crap I’ve gone through. Yet it was my writing that dragged me down. If it’s my passion, why the heck was I – am I – so bad at it? Why do I still want to throw myself off a cliff every time I can’t get what I do to be 100% perfect?

And the answer arrived like those freaking ugly cicadas in Virginia why must they exist lightning: turning 18 doesn’t change anything. In deference to my previous post, it’s a milestone, a portent of successes to strive for. But I am still that awkward person who has too much fun reading YA books and laughs at inappropriate moments in real life. I am still that one annoying guy who will cry when the character no one cares about dies. I am still that one ugly perfectionist who holds himself to a standard that is way too high – high enough to send him spiraling down when he doesn’t reach it.

I need to tell myself that it’s okay. It’s okay that my writing still isn’t as good as I want it to be. It’s okay that I’m three books behind on my Goodreads reading challenge and that I haven’t posted a review in over a week. It’s okay that I continue to fight, even as an adult, to push back unhealthy inclinations toward perfection.

No matter the age, whether it be 19, 23, or 48: a positive mind plows through any obstacle. As Lady Gaga once said – just dance, and it’ll be okay.

Your reward for enduring that melodramatic post of death: me in a dress.

Your reward for enduring that melodramatic post of death: me in a dress.

Anyone else have angst they’d like to get off their chest, related to aging or anything else in general? I wanted to title this post “New Adult Crisis” (get it, like “midlife crisis”, except, I’m a new adult… yeah) but I was scared people would mistake it for the new novel genre. I need to get back on the reading train – I thought that after AP exams I’d have so much time but family and Queer as Folk have proven me wrong. I need to post about QAF, my new obsession, and some societal issues I’ve been thinking about. Anyway, goodbye until next time and I hope you’re all well!

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46 Comments

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46 responses to “18 and Flailing

  1. Elaine

    Only commiserations to add here – feel like I haven’t written anything worth even sighs of disdain, lately. But you’re absolutely right that it’ll come back to both of us by the end, and isn’t that just worth a thousand sighs of relief :) Thanks for this post, dear. Oh, and much, much love for the dress!

    • Ah, Elaine, thank you for sharing my feels. It’ll come back to us sooner or later and perhaps we will find inspiration in the future we share at our college! Thank you for reading and commenting and empathizing, as always.

  2. I will be 36 in September, and I will give you only one piece of advice.You’re not really going to change much. By 18, your personality is pretty much set. So lean into it, even if you can’t trust it at first. Ok, two pieces of advice. The second is to remember that you’re 18, and it seems impossible to get your grown-up shit together. But it’s not like there’s one moment where TADA! You’re an adult. Those little moments happen every day. Notice. And don’t try to do it all in one day.

    • You’re right, I suppose emotional intelligence and maturity develop gradually – it wouldn’t make such sense for everyone to suddenly become an adult at the same age. As cliche as this quote is I feel like it’s applicable to this post and its comments: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. I am dying here. I probably shouldn’t be laughing but I laughed a lot while reading this.
    My vacations just started and I have all these things I want to achieve over the holidays but I get the feeling I won’t get anything done and I’ll end up feeling like a failure. I just have this obsession with getting things done. I NEED TO GET THEM DONE. Like I am the only crazy person in my class who has gotten her whole college app essay written down. Everybody else is like… how ’bout next (school) year?
    Also that dress suits you, you look wonderful.

    • Aw I empathize with you, but remember that you should take a break during your holidays and refresh as well as accomplishing work ahead of time! Congrats on getting your college app essay done early – you’ll have plenty of time to revise it now. (: Also, thanks for the compliment, and thank you for reading and commenting as always!

  4. Oh, and one more thing. It only gets better from here. You’ll enjoy aging, because you’ll enjoy having enough life wisdom to keep from feeling like a dumbass all the time. I know I do. :)

  5. I share your age angst. Come august I’m turning the big 3-0… but I still feel like i’m 18 most of the time. Time just doesn’t stop D:

  6. Ah Thomas…angst about aging… Sure I have it. It won’t be much longer and I’ll be leaving my forties behind. And guess what? I don’t think I’m yet ready to be out of my twenties. ;) And writing? I’ve discovered something. When you’re not happy with what your writing, it isn’t about whether it’s “good” or not. It’s about whether it’s saying what you want it to say. If it’s not saying what it is you have to say, then of course it’s not ‘good’. When someone else might read it and thing…this is damn good!

    It doesn’t ring true to us, so to the writer, it is not good.

    All of these angsts and questions and hair pulling moments? Eh…it’s who we are. And we learn to roll with this stuff and use it to our advantage.

    I have to tell you, you make me happy. Because when I read this, I feel relief that someone as wonderful and brilliant as you….writes thoughts and worries that I can relate to. A different gender, different generation….
    :)

    • I agree about our writing – one of my friends the chapter I discussed in my post and she said it was great. Sometimes we can’t control the way we view ourselves and our work even if it’s through a critical lens; but we can push through and keep producing!

      You’re right. From these moments of failure and self-doubt come strength and solidarity. I’m glad that you can empathize with what I write despite our differences; kindred souls don’t have to have physical attributes in common!

  7. The angst never goes away…just saying. Also, I numb my depression by, most recently, watching an ungodly amount of Firefly. :D Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – even though there are lots of new things going on in your life, take it day by day like always before. It does work out. :) And you know that, deep down, you like the cicadas. ;)

    • I just looked up Firefly – it looks like a quality show even if it isn’t something I would watch myself. Your right that it’s better to take things day by day than stressing out too much. And, I have to disagree with you for the first time about the cicadas… -_-

  8. Wow so much true words put in a post. P.S. Love the dress. ;)

  9. Ha! You are not alone. I have fear of aging too. I want to stay forever young. I always had hard times with growing up. I’ll turn 17 soon and I am freaking out. But I guess I’ll have to deal with it.
    By the way, you look gorgeous in that dress. :D ^_^

  10. If I look back, my intellectual peak was at 17ish. Great exam results, amazing reading diary. Yet I was depressed and anxious and fairly miserable. Now I’m in my 40s, I have a successful business, a long-term partner, a house, two cats … not sure I feel “grown up” but I know my best decade so far has been my 30s and these 40s aren’t shaping up too badly. I have a lot of the opinions I had at 18 and my political inclinations are the same, but I have learned to manage depressive episodes a lot, lot better; learned to be more open with people in real life and online (well online wasn’t really there then, but you know what I mean!); and am much more comfortable in my skin. Maybe that helps a bit?

    I remember the big let-down when I got those superb exam results, got the uni place then had to get through the summer before I went. And the slight anti-climax when I got to uni. Oh, and the one when we moved into our beautiful house here and then sat down and went, “oh”. Peaks and troughs, mate: peaks and troughs.

    You WILL prevail. Keep strong.

    • Your story of success through failure inspires me Liz! It’s great that you’ve maintained some of your opinions and political inclinations but managed to keep your head up through depressive episodes to get where you are now. I’m going through that summer before uni decline now – it really does make me feel better that someone else understands. I’m sure I’ll face challenges at college but I’m looking forward to overcoming them and growing as a person! Thank you so much for your support and for your willingness to share a piece of yourself.

  11. I think the reason that you tear yourself down after you write is because you see it and you know that you are capable of so much more. At least that’s how it is for me and my music (especially since I am a fellow perfectionist as well). Just don’t give up hope, you’ll get there! Rome wasn’t built in a day!

    • You’re right, that’s one of the main reasons I’m so harsh on myself – I’m glad we empathize with each other, even if we both need to improve. I won’t give up hope especially with all of this support, thank you so much!

  12. Oh dear, I love cicadas! I love all noisy insects and love living where they dwell. Apart from that, you look great in a dress, even though we didn’t get the long shot. Remember, angst is good, it feeds your creativity. :)

    • I would gladly trade places with you, cicadas scare the heck out of me. Thank you, I wish I had gotten a better shot but I didn’t have time due to my government class. And, that’s true – angst allows us to expand our minds and sublimate what’s getting us down!

  13. I’m sorry for say this so late but Happy belated birthday, Thomas! Yeah, I don’t think eighteen changes anything much about us except probably more responsibilities and the expectations all go up a notch (no sweat right?), other than that it’s life as usual. You + that dress = awesome! If possible I like you even more, your not scared as you think of being you and I admire that. Rock on :)

    • Thank you Devina, no worries about the wish being belated! I agree about the additional responsibilities and expectations, but those don’t need to be taken on all at once – it’s a gradual process. I’m glad the dress doesn’t look like an ugly abomination; it’s not something I would wear every day but perhaps I’ll try it on again in the future. (:

  14. Andreas

    Hey there, Thomas! First of all, I just want to wish you a happy belated birthday. Congratulations for turning 18, woohoo! And the good news is I’m turning 18 soon too! :) and gosh, “It’s okay that my writing still isn’t as good as I want it to be. It’s okay that I’m three books behind on my Goodreads reading challenge and that I haven’t posted a review in over a week.” this is what I’m feeling over the past few weeks. :D I guess this is my angst. And I really want to continue watching QAF, but I just can’t. Too many movies to watch. Sigh. Turning 18 definitely has its own perks, like I can finally watch those M18 movies in Singapore where I wasn’t allowed to due to their kinda-suck rules. Freedom! I think it’s safe to say that we’re both adults now. :D And the dress looks cute on you. Anyway, I’m sure that we both can defeat our angst. :)

    • Thank you Andreas! Woo for being 18 buddies! It’s okay for us to take a break from reading as long as we come back to it – same with our writing. And ah, that makes me genuinely sad; hopefully you’ll be able to continue Queer As Folk later on, I’m midway through season 2 and my mind is more blown with each episode. I’m glad you’re relaxing with movies though. But, once again, it’s great you’re turning 18 soon and we will rise above our angst for sure!

  15. You’re being to hard on yourself but it is totally understandable. Milestones in life frequently trigger angst of one sort or another. We all find our voice and share our talents with the world, each in our own way and at our own erratic pace. Furthermore you still have 2 years of teen angst left. Heck, I haven’t been a teen in a LONG time but my inner child/teen still has it’s moments of angst.

    • Yeah, that makes sense – there must be a reason for the midlife crisis. You’re also right that some of us take longer to share our talents with the world but that’s quite alright. Perhaps we all have our inner child/teen, it’s what keeps us young! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  16. catelittlebird

    Don’t worry – I laugh at the worst moments possible. Like when someone trips and falls…

    Anyway, I totally get your whole “18 doesn’t change anything,” even though I’m only turning sixteen in a month and a half. I remember when my sister and I were little and we’d pretend to be 14-17 and dream about what we’d do when we were that old. Now that I’m actually fifteen, I wish I could be the girl I imagined myself to be.

    I’m also a diehard perfectionist and suffer from way too severe OCD. I spent half an hour putting markers in rainbow order during class one day. In group projects, I end up doing most of the work because even though everyone works and does it well, it doesn’t fit what I want.

    • Sometimes our imaginations get the better of us, but that’s what keeps us pushing us as well. And having that OCD must be difficult; while it’s good that you have high standards it must be hard for you to strive so hard to have things your way. You still have a lot of time to work on improving yourself if you wish to, though sometimes the quirky aspects of who we are are the most valuable. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who laughs at inappropriate times. (:

  17. I havne’t hit the 18th birthday mileston yet, but I can still admit to struggling and feeling mad at myself for certain things. I remember when I first ‘became a teenager’ on my 13th birthday. I was pretty sure that I was going to feel very different and quickly gain new skills. Let’s just say that I was thoroughly disappointed by myself. But I try to grow as a person everyday, so hopefully I will get to be the person I want to be ^_^ And I am sure you will be able to become the person you want to be also!
    P.S.
    You actually look pretty good in a dress. You thinking about making wearing on a regular thing? :P

    • Yeah, sometimes reality doesn’t live up to our expectations but that’s okay – it’s all about getting our reality as close as we can to our dreams, right? I think through reading lots of books and writing we’re both growing every day!

      And, ha, perhaps a once a month or every couple of months type of thing. Maybe I’ll wear one on the first day of college – wouldn’t that be quite the first impression? Thanks for reading and commenting Lottie!

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  19. Amy

    Hi Thomas! I just recently discovered your blog, and after reading a couple of posts, I hit the follow button. There are so many reasons why– your writing is so refreshing, your perspective on the world is intriguing, your ability to express yourself is impressive, especially for someone our age– but I think what really did it for me was the fact that I can relate to you and, in particular, to this post.

    I turned 18 just recently as well (April), and, like you, am getting ready to take a big step and begin college this fall. I’ve always loved reading stories as a child, and although I often write during my free time, I’ve almost never been satisfied with my writing. When I look at other authors’ work, I usually get pretty discouraged. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from 18 years of life, it’s that there’s always room for improvement, and that there’s always ways to get better at something. Writing is no exception.

    Everything we write is basically just an expression of ourselves. Even if, on the surface, our work seems to have nothing to do with us, if anyone looks closely enough, they’ll find a part of us in the story. I don’t think anyone is born a perfect writer, because I don’t think anyone is born with the perfect ability to express themselves. Writing, like expression, is something that takes time and practice. Sure, we might not write something Pulitzer-worthy today, or tomorrow, or the next day, but I’m sure we’ll get there eventually. :]

    I really enjoyed this post, and I can’t wait to read about your experiences in college too!

    • Amy, I’m so glad you found my blog and that you can relate to my posts! No matter how great someone’s writing is I feel like one of the most important factors is whether or not you can empathize with the emotions he or she expresses.

      You’re right that writing is a form of expression, one that must be practiced to achieve anything close to perfection. It can be hard because there’s so much you want to say and it sounds perfect in your head, but it gets overwhelming when you actually try to write it out. Like you I loved to read as a child and I still do now; comparing my writing to some of my favorite authors’ makes my words look like gibberish. But it’s important that we keep writing, because without that, we don’t express ourselves. Like Laurie Halse Anderson once wrote, “When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.”

      Thank you for reading and for your thought-provoking comment! I can’t wait to read more of your writing as well.

  20. Ronald

    I myself turned 18 now 33 years ago. I have no advice, I can not tell anybody how to run their own life, nor will I attempt to do so. We must all learn to trust our own judgement…..that seemed to be a milestone for me which occurred well past 18. A series of experiences, both personally and professionally taught me that my judgement was actually quite good and that my first impressions seemed to pan out. I think a big part of becoming an adult is self acceptance, self love, and finally figuring out that we as individuals do actually know what is best for us. Screw the critics, the naysayers, the perpetually negative. Yes, I did make some misjudgements along the way, learned from my mistakes and carried on.

    I will offer one piece of advice, then go away, for now. As one ages, things that were of great importance in the younger years tend to become less significant as we move on. That does not mean we were necessarily wrong or made poor judgements in the past, it is simply things are different now, not better, not worse, not smarter, not more wise (although we tend to accumulate wisdom as we go along). Just different. Priorities and values do change, so if you wish to climb Everest at 18, then great, climb it, enjoy it. Do not commit to a lifetime of mountain climbing now, because you may just decided that painting Everest from afar is just as rewarding one day.

    • Ronald, thank you for your eloquent and wise comment. I feel like acquiring that confidence in your own judgement is something that takes time and is achieved by people at different stages in their lives. Your statement about how certain things seem so important to us now but will fade in the future strikes me as earnest and true; I can see that already as a few of the goals I held at the beginning of high school I disregard now. We continue to change our priorities and develop our interests and talents – like you said, not necessarily for better or for worse, or as less wise or more wise, it’s just the way it is. Essentially it is what it is, and we will continue to grow as time progresses. It’s a simple thought but one that is extremely deep simultaneously.

      Once again, thank you for your insight! I cannot adequately express how much I appreciate it whenever you leave me a comment.

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  22. I get weird about birthdays too. Each one is another year closer to adulthood. *laughs weakly* Me? Being an adult? With lots of responsibilities? Nooooo. When I was little I couldn’t wait to grow up. What was I thinking?

  23. Adi

    I’m 25 and I still cant get away from YA novels. I love them. at least u can write. I love reading and I’ve tried to write but even my old journal entries are crap. when I go back and read them I cant make sense of what I was feeling and why. lol but I will say this in response to being a bit angsty…not a day goes by that I don’t get called weird. NO JOKE. I used to get embarrassed when people would tell me but I got to the point where I started loving it. Who wants to be normal? what is normal? “Not I” said the goose, is the answer to both of those questions. I love laughing loud and proud and I love being happy. I’ve learned to love my faults. when I think of me the only thing I can really say is “I’m Adeline (pronounced Add-uh-leen) I’m not like everyone else. I love Disney films, I read kids books, I’m in love with Korean Dramas even though I don’t know Korean and I’m absolutely unique!” Now when people say I’m weird I tell them “Of course! Who would I be if I wasn’t me?” My boyfriend and I have been together for 8yrs and it still amazes me that he’s never called me weird and he’s always accepted me for who I am, even at my weirdest. :) BTW You are still cute…even in a dress. <3

    • I’m so glad that you know who you are and that you’re proud of it! It’s adorable that you and your boyfriend have been dating for eight years, that’s quite an accomplishment – and so many of my friends watch K-Dramas but I’m scared of getting addicted. Anyway, thank you for your compliment and thanks for sharing how you can relate to what I wrote in your own life!

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